Package it Right

One of Martha's 10 rules of entrepreneurial success for a business selling a product is to package it right, an effort by merchants that rarely goes unnoticed by design afficionados such as myself.

When Martha Stewart Everyday products were available in Canada (first at Kmart, then at Zellers, then at The Bay, then at Sears, now not at all) I used to save some of the imagery on the packages of the items I had purchased: the labels on a set of tea towels, the cardboard backing of a set of cutlery. You see, part of being a design addict is that you cannot help but sponge up the inspirations around you and begin in earnest to collect and store and compartmentalize all of your clipped and cut-out treasures. Between the savaged paper shopping bags whose logos I admired and the bits and pieces of scrap paper torn from various packages stuffed into a set of drawers, I simply could not go on hoarding. And so, most of these cuttings were relegated to the recycle bin several years ago.
Still, I'm an archivist at heart. And part of the fun of having a blog like this is that I can gather and arrange various design inspirations. (No more clutter!)

As mentioned in an earlier post, much of the design we've seen on the packaging of Martha's products at Kmart and Macy's was the result of a collaborative partnership between Doyle Partners design firm and in-house designers at MSLO. Since 1997, most of the packaging at Kmart was designed by Doyle and the team at MSLO. More recently, the packaging of the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's was given special treatment by Doyle, which also designed the new Martha Stewart circular logo. Doyle is headed up by its founder, Stephen Doyle, who is the husband of Gael Towey, chief creative officer at Martha Stewart Living.

I've gathered a few examples of the sublime exercises in effective branding and marketing below, and upon review have fallen in love with the bold use of colour and the graphic use of font and digitals on so much of the packaging all over again. Indeed, she packaged it right!
In the photo above, Stephen Doyle works laboriously on the plaster cast of the new Martha Stewart logo, which was launched in October of 2006. Doyle opted for a plaster cast rather than a computerized imaging technique to create the logo so that a more free-handed and natural look to the font could be achieved. This not only increases the logo's friendliness, it also makes it far more difficult for competitors to replicate a free-hand design. The inspiration for the new logo came from coinage and wreaths. Martha and her team wanted a logo that would imbue a sense of value (with the classicism of an old Roman coin) as well as impart a feeling of welcome to those beholding the image.
Gathered en-masse this way, the Martha Stewart Everyday boxes of kitchenware look utterly bold and engaging. Note the use of enlarged digitals and simple, solid colours, many of which are sharply contrasted. The liberal use of colour is something I have always loved about the Martha Stewart design aesthetic.
Creating a window or shadow-box effect on the sets of cutlery was an ingenious idea. The package on the left takes on the cylindrical shape of a canned item, while the box next to it resembles a milk carton. The boxes are also easy to carry from shelf to cart to car to kitchen. Nothing was left to chance by the designers.
This is an example of a tag from one of the tea-towel sets, which featured herb designs on the textiles. I adore the kitschy flavour and yet it is still so modern.
These wine glasses from the Martha Stewart Everyday collection are given their casual context via the exuberant packaging. These are kitchen wine glasses, for simple entertaining. Part of great design is to charactize the product and in this case it speaks to a sense of ease and elegance, without being at all stuffy.
Martha's garden goods sold at Kmart were also gorgeously and uniquely packaged. The garden hose above features a photograph straight from the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine: a shot of Martha's garden at Turkey Hill. This perfectly illustrates the 'synergystic' concept of the brand, relaying an image from magazine editorial to product embellishment, endlessly cross-promoting.
The use of photography on the Martha Stewart Everyday seed packages, along with simple, clear font, make buying flowers for the garden ten times easier for the shopper. It also makes it a more inspiring experience. Here, again, the use of photography in the magazine is reused on product. (The sunflower shown above-left of the zinnia package was used on the cover of the September, 1995, issue of Martha Stewart Living.)
In terms of in-store display, few brands achieved such a simplified and clean presentation as Martha Stewart Everyday. Here, the Martha Stewart Colors paint program achieves a graphic and powerful effect.
The baby items sold by Martha Stewart Everyday were hard to come by in most Kmart stores. I had never seen any of the packaging until I discovered this image, above. The use of illustrated animals on the packaging has a vintage charm that is adorable without being overly precious.
When "Martha by Mail" became "The Catalog For Living" in 2001, Stephen Doyle and his team played an integral role in the redesign of the catalog's cover and layout. The aim was to tie it in much more closely with the magazine, Martha Stewart Living. By using the square Martha Stewart logo at the top left of the cover, the catalog took on the authority and familiarity of the magazine.
In 2006 when the Macy's line was launched, a more pared-down and monochromatic palette was used. This reflected the higher price point and the changing (aging) demographic. A cool, sky blue was used on much of the packaging, and it is also the primary hue used for the circular logo. On the packaging for the bakeware, above, x-ray prints were used to classify the contents, a brilliant and ironic way of selling an item that cannot otherwise be seen because of the opacity of the package.
The display of the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's maintains the straightforward, linear approach used for the Everyday line at Kmart, but there is a bit more room for merchandising moments: rolling pins inside jugs, stacked mixing bowls, the use of baking racks on castors to display items.
Sheet sets prominently feature the Martha Stewart logo. Note the much quieter use of font and colour here, compared to the Everyday line's use of fantastical colour contrasts.
When the Martha Stewart Collection was launched, Macy's gave all of the ground-floor windows of its flagship Manhattan store to promote the brand. The designers created huge awnings for the windows and established quaint vignettes of products in each of the displays. (This image makes me want a Martha Stewart Store so badly!)


winisheep said...

thank you for sharing this..

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Anonymous said...

I know I will probably be disagreed with, but I prefer the old font style for the magazine. they changed it about 5 years ago, but I wish they hadn't. It's just a little thing, but it rankles me. I guess I'm just funny that way!

Pru said...

I love all the packaging shown, a lot of which I had never seen before. When I was in New York we did a trip to Macy's where I bought as much as my suitcase (and Customs) would allow. I just wish that the store was kept a bit neater where the products are kept and that Martha would start selling some of her products in the UK - Harrods would be ideal!

Mo said...

I love the faux bois that they used on some of the macy's packaging! I cut that out as well!

Anonymous said...

I really want the 12 piece stainless steel cookware set from The Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's but it's been discontinued/no longer available and I can't find it anywhere. Sad... A lot of her items go to clearance/closeout fast from Macy's.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a ball finding a lot of her old Kmart products on eBay. It's a gold mine - I'd encourage everyone to check it out.